August 17th, 2010
06:53 PM ET

Pakistani mom: Take my baby; she'll have a better life

CNN reporter Sara Sidner sits in a car surrounded by children as she and a crew prepare to leave the flooded Sindh Province in Pakistan.

Sindh Province, Pakistan - The first things you notice are the flies. They form what looks like a buzzing black crust on children's lips, eyes and foreheads. The children are either too tired to keep brushing them away or too used to them to bother.

"We have terrible problem with flies," 50-year-old Khuda Jatoi says in Sindhi, the local language here. Everyone here is suffering from something. Still, the moment they see us, everyone scrambles to find a suitable place for us. Someone is trying to find a chair for us to sit down. Father Khuda Joti is insisting on giving us tea or sending someone to buy a cold drink. We are guests in his makeshift shelter, and he wants to give us the best of what he has. We cannot bring ourselves to take anything from him. He and his family have lost nearly everything they own.

They are victims of the worst floods Pakistan has ever seen, and yet they are trying to make us comfortable. That keeps happening everywhere we go. The day before, in a school-turned-clinic, a few ladies who had survived the floods handed me a "hair catcher" because they could see that I was sweating profusely, and they wanted to make me more comfortable. At the same time, the men kept fanning us with brightly colored hand fans. It makes me feel both ashamed about how much I have and don't appreciate, and inspired by the kindness that is clearly being extended with no expectation of anything in return.

When we ask about their troubles, the entire clan begins to talk at once. Suddenly we are surrounded by children, women, fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandfathers - all members of the large extended family. They have taken refuge in a small school that the family broke into and turned into an unofficial shelter. They have nowhere else to go.

"We were drowning in the water," one family member says. We couldn't hear much else as the sound of all those voices began to weave together in a suffocating quilt made of despair.

We tried to quiet everyone so that we could have a conversation. They told us their sorrows and spewed anger at authorities for giving too little too late.

Then, something happened that makes me cringe. One of the women in the crowd asked that I take the tiny baby girl I was cooing at. She said the baby would have a better life with me. I wasn't sure I heard her correctly until the actual mother of the baby girl said it. I stood there silent, my brain churning so furiously it was as if it was looking for the right answer to a test from the Almighty. How am I supposed to answer that question? What is the right answer? Is there a right answer?

There have been plenty of days in my line of work where I imagined gathering up all the suffering children and taking them with me - at least I would know that they would have food to eat and books to read. But I never really considered actually taking a baby from the arms of its mother, even if asked. In this case, the family has been so traumatized, I told myself it was just their fear and anxiety talking.

I left with only my notepad and camera in my hand and another of life's difficult questions swirling in my head.

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Filed under: Pakistan
soundoff (288 Responses)
  1. Voice of reason

    Muslim leaders were saying Katrina was a punishment from God.. These same hypocrites are not really saying much now and keeping low profile.. it is amazing most international help going to Pakistan is coming from Christian countries... So Muslims they have the money to build mosques close to ground zero but have no money to save their fellow Muslims !! FUNNY is mohammad in the Quran calls the Farsi people ,Iran Afghanistan and Pakistan, as the funny looking and the people who talk stupid.. They still believe in Mohammad cuz they follow that religion blindly without thinking ....

    August 17, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • anonymous

      Which muslim leader said that Katrina is a punishment from God??? Taliban, they are not literate and they live in caves do you count their opinion as valid. You however have a secular eduaction and talking nonsense.

      August 17, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Z

      The only people that said that were the Christian lunatics.

      August 18, 2010 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
    • JennyTX

      The idiot who said that Katrina was a punishment from god was Pat Robertson, an American televangelist who appeals to (and takes money from) the dull-minded.

      August 18, 2010 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. jacalder

    This poor Pakistani mother is certainly a better parent than the mothers we have in America. Just compare this woman- willing to give her baby up to have a better life compared to the miserable excuse for a human being who murdered her two children in South Carolina. The people in Pakistan affected by the flooding have nothing- and yet CNN is making excuses for the SC woman who murdered her two kids. Well- the people in Pakistan are overwhelmed. All Americans have it easy compared to what they're going through.

    August 17, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      I agree, i feel sad for this lady !

      August 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. George

    Fact of business: Those people have lived like that for thousands of years. We in the west are crying and wailing about how great a disaster it is and how they need hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and blah blah blah. We will give the aid, of this there is no doubt. Could we ask in return that they move into the 21st century?,,,,,cuz honestly people, that's where we are.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • oneStarman - Walla Walla, WA

      George – They haven't been living under water for thousands of years – just since we screwed up the climate with our coal power plants and cars. I find it odd that so many comment like you do about wanting something in return for throwing a life preserver to a drowning child. I am very sorry for such people like you.

      August 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. funinfacts

    god will help these people once they stopp'd terrorism on others...I am pretty sure . don't interpret Qur-an incorrectly, give good real education instead of teaching religionism(a full day class about their religion).seems like these people are misleading by some external forces(anti-humans).

    August 17, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chichetr

      "Religionism"? Are you joking me? Have you graduated high school yet? Those weren't even coherent sentences.

      August 18, 2010 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
  5. George

    Is have more babies all they do over there? My God people, get wind of reality for a change. It's a fresh breeze and maybe you'll have a future by breathing it in.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Alena

    It breaks my heart that a mother would be willing to give up her child for a better life for it. So sad.

    It also saddens me that there are so many hateful, ignorant comments about Pakistan, the religion of Islam, etc. The people who have made these ridiculous comments make me ashamed to be an American. Educate yourselves about the world people as many of you have no idea what is really going on. Many of you don't understand that religion has nothing to do with the suffering of the people of Pakistan in the flood situation. Have a heart and stop judging.

    And btw, Muslim's are a peaceful people; it's the radicals who hide behind Islam to carry out their own sick agendas who you should be angry with.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Curt

    Can ya give the kid back when it becomes materialistic and demands at least a million dollars extra asap to survive?

    August 17, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. George

    Since the terror groups are centered in the same region as the flood, is it possible Allah is displeased with all the killing of innocent school children and mothers and fathers, and the stoning to death and beheading of innocent people. Do ya'all really think God likes that?

    August 17, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terri

      No, I don't think God likes that. God probably doesn't like the killings, murders, terrorism, etc. that goes on in the USA either. What's your point?

      August 17, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. George

    It's time for the Taliban and Al-quida and all the other hate groups that Pakistan and Iran support, to lay down their guns and re-educate themselves on their holy creed. Instead of being vicious criminal hate killers and torturers they could be upright proud decent holy men, living simple lives in peace with their neighbors. What they have done and are doing has turned the rest of the world against Islam. No matter how many politically correct speeches or soundbites you hear from politicians, there is a truth to that.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kathy Greystone

    Yes you should have taken the child. Yes she would have had a better life. It's not a difficult question if you know what your morals are.

    However, this is front page news??? I'm so sick of CNN using 'iReports' or This Just In as news. I'm deleting CNN from my favorites list. This is not breaking news.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. GR

    After reading about Pakistan's disaster,I have a question to ask:
    What's happened to all of the money that we've been giving them all these years for foreign aid (and also to fight terrorism)?
    Now ask yourselves what happened to all of that money we've been giving Haiti all these years for foreign aid.
    Pretty obvious that our money hasn't been going to the people of both countries to better themselves like it was supposed to. Especially now that both countries have been stricken w/ natural disasters.
    But at least their leaders have been living better than their people!

    After throwing away our money to worthless,corrupt govt's,why should we care anymore?
    Better off keeping our money in the US,where we know it'll do some good.
    And if you really want "change", then we should start caring about ourselves for once!

    August 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • AA

      What's happened to all of the money that we've been giving them all these years for foreign aid ??

      FYI, It had been used to fund the 80 thousand men in uniform combatting in the border areas, its also used to fund the munition being used by these men to fight militants, its also being used for fuel to mobilize these men in these areas so that trillians of dollars would not be needed to do the job by our soldiers instead. Oh also we save lives while their soldiers give theirs thats for free!

      August 20, 2010 at 4:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. CSG

    It never fails to amaze me that not only are many Americans profoundly ignorant about the rest of the world, they are also proud, almost gleeful in their ignorance. It's just stunning how people just revel in their lack of knowledge about almsot everything, as if this lack of knowledge is something to celebrate.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • SCOTO

      Try travelling. I can suggest the Middle East. You will be continue to be amazed.

      August 17, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • CSG

      Hey, SCOTO –

      I have traveled – all over the world, including the Middle East. Is your point of view that the average American only needs to be informed as well as the average person in the Middle East.

      Because that's a pretty low bar.

      My point of view is that Americans should be more informed, given our material wealth and our free educational system. Apparently you believe otherwise, that we only need to be the equal of the mostly illiterate (or at best, semi-literate) people in these Arab nations.

      Seems like a very un-American thing to say – I think we should have a higher standard in place.

      August 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jake

    Maybe the Taliban could come to the rescue of the people who provide them refuge!

    August 17, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • thewayiseeit

      Preach on @Jake!

      August 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Robby

    When are we going to stop this insanity of bailing out foreign nations and every natural or man made disaster that occurs.
    Giving any money to Pakistan makes me physically ILL. They would never help us.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bekah

      Since the only reason we should ever help anyone is to get something back, right?

      August 17, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Farrukh Saeed

      Robby, Please do not forgot the time when Pakistan was on the front line supporting USA & Afghanistan to defeat communism. Pakistan was there & still facing the consequences of supporting that war 30 years on now. So Pakistan has done its part and still playing a practical role now by trying to defeat extremism. Its time to recognize your friends and support them in the time of need. This is where it matters the most.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. George

    Now is a great opportunity for America to show the Muslim world what we are really made of. Let us all start sending aid money immediately into whatever organizations are most likely to get it directly to the people of Pakistan. Let us forget for now that these same people are seen in the thousands on news videos shouting "Death to America". Let us forget for now that these same people plot every day how to kill more Americans that they did the last time. Let us forget for now that we are infidels living in the Great Satan. Let us be self forgetful for now and donate as much as you can possibly afford to help the people of Pakistan.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      George, I thought we were on the same page. The destabilization of Pakistan should motivate India to make a move that will likely escalate to an exchange of ballistic missiles. The West needs to convince India that a few of those bombs need to land in the Swat Valley and North Waziristan. The plan is working perfectly, perfectly.

      August 17, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Farrukh Saeed

      George, Pakistan is a nation of 160+ million people and if there are few thousand people who hold malice against USA, that doesn't mean every Pakistani hates America. Granted among 160+ million there are extremists, but they can only be defeated when friends stick together in the time of need. Remember united we stand, divided we fall.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
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